A New Type of Chinese Hero

31 Jan 2006|Cynthia Chan

Li Yuchun made the TIMEAsia list of “heroes” for 2005.

Li was the winner for the “Super Girl’s Voice” (an American Idol-type singing contest) held in August 2005. The show drew in the largest audience in the history of Chinese TV. Li, some says, didn’t top other contestants with her voice or dance moves, however, her unique appearance and personality helped her draw in most audience votes via SMS to win the contest. As of now, she’s still one of the most searched/mentioned names on various websites in China.

As the article in TIME puts it: “What Li did possess was attitude, originality and a proud androgyny that defied Chinese norms. During the tryouts—in which 150,000 contestants were winnowed to 15—Li wore loose jeans and a black button-down shirt, with no make-up and the haircut (and body) of David Bowie during his Space Oddity phase. She auditioned with In My Heart There’s Only You, Never Her, an oldie made famous by Taiwan’s Liu Wenzheng—a man. In the main competition she sang other songs written for male performers and called herself a tomboy.”

Li’s qualities are far from the traditional standards of Chinese girl pop. Her acceptance by the general audience suggests that people in China are beginning to embrace individuality more openly now. Jaw-dropping behaviors that once drove blank stares in the past are slowly emerging in the mainstream as “cool.” China’s “linglei” (or hooligans) are playing a new role in defining “cool” for the mainstream. No small trick in a country traditionally appreciates conformity.

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